Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The N words

I was out today and two young guys were behind me, friends obviously and goofing around, and one suddenly called the other a Nazi. “Get lost, Nazi,” he said, laughing and pushing his friend. They were two completely decent looking 18- or 19-year olds and I was stunned that they broke this tabu. Of course the term is used often by non-Germans as the ultimate insult. It’s thrown around lightly these days, too, with Greeks calling Germans Nazis, or calling Angela Merkel a Nazi, or whomever.

But for Germans, outside of historical context, it’s a no-fly zone. When these two used it, it was so unexpected I had to laugh, and they were laughing, too, knowing they were stepping over a well-patrolled boundary.

It reminded me, oddly, of two black people fooling around call each other 'nigger' - that frowned-upon put-down, made innocuous for some as insider banter. There are worlds between the words, it goes without saying: one being a criminal, the other a victim, one having once been an official moniker, the other a condescending insult. And I surely don’t think Germans calling each other Nazis is going to gain any currency. Still, hearing it used was a kind of relief, like acknowledging the elephant in the room, and the laugh was the relief of tension.

song of the day: two little hitlers

1 comment:

Kass said...

Interesting, the calibration of the weight of words.

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